Tennis

When coach John Hein was hired by Whitman College in 2008, he said it was “clear” that the NCAA Division III school “wanted women’s tennis to be on the national stage.”

It seems the Blues’ program has enjoyed the spotlight ever since.

Especially from 2012-15.

Whitman won four Northwest Conference tournaments and three regular-season crowns in that four-year period.

The Blues placed second in the NWC in 2012, but defeated regular-season champion Linfield for their first tournament championship.

Morgan Lawless and Emily Rolston, along with Alyssa Roberg and Courtney Lawless, struck a positive note early with victories at No. 2 and No. 1 doubles, respectively.

Morgan, Courtney and Rolston won singles matches to seal the deal. Rolston’s triumph was the 100th of her career.

“We knew how good we were,” Hein said. “We had confidence that we were a better team. That set the tone for continued success.”

Whitman commenced a three-year run of 12-0 league finishes, earned a “No. 13 or 14 national ranking,” Hein said, and beat Lewis & Clark in the 2013 NWC tournament final.

“It was a super, fun year,” Hein said. “Lewis & Clark made a big push. Maybe they had more talent than us, but we played a great match.”

Hein remembered how it ended.

“Alyssa Roberg hit a down-the-line backhand to send us to the NCAAs,” Hein said. “She was an amazing leader.”

The Blues posted another 5-0 win in the 2014 conference tournament finale. They dispatched Linfield for the championship.

Whitman’s doubles teams — Jenna Dobrin and Hannah Palkowitz (No. 3), Erin Bell and Katrina Allick (No. 2), and Courtney Lawless and Madison Webster (No. 1) — prevailed, as did Allick and Allie Wallin in singles.

“The middle two years was when we were humming,” Hein said. “ We had great confidence, but were still hungry. The players stepped up to lead as a group.”

Multiple crests of emotion were experienced when the Blues hosted the 2015 NWC tourney.

Whitman swept the doubles matches thanks to Courtney and Morgan Lawless (No. 1), Hanna Greenberg and Webster (No. 2), and Wallin and Erin Bell (No. 3). Morgan Lawless won at No. 3 singles, but it came down to the No. 4 singles contest — which Wallin pulled out in a three-set tiebreaker before an enthusiastic throng of 200 spectators, Hein said.

“We came out strong in doubles and they came out strong in singles,” Hein said. “Everything came together. The whole team earned the victory. It was the most thrilling, exciting moment of my tennis career.”

The achievements outlined, according to Hein, are “a great example of what makes the program special.

“We had amazing people who appreciated the opportunity they had,” Hein said. “We have carried it forward to this day.”

Roy Elia can be reached at royelia@wwub.com.